By our own correvondent
'T HE United States Government was told by the National -R. Catholic Welfare Conference-official agency of the Catholic Hierarchy in America-last week that it should neither penalise nor promote birth control. It was advised to pursue a policy of strict neutrality. The Conference took its stand in registering opposition to a Bill by Senator Gruening to create new Federal offices for distributing birth control information in America and in under-developed countries. The statement was made in evidence prepared for delivery to an American Senate foreign relations subcommittee.
If the Government took an active part in promoting birth control programmes. the sub-committee was told, it would pose serious dangers to civil liberty. with -no genuine prospect of relieving the problems of poverty".
No ban sought
Mr. William Ball. general counsel of the Pennsylvania Conference, delivered the statement to the sub-committee and said it had been approved by the National Conference. They did not ask the Governmentto ban or impede private programmes of family planning. but contended that public power and public funds should not be used to provide birth control services, he added.
The statement appeared to put the Catholic Hierarchy on record against the use of poverty programme funds to underwrite birth control clinics. Proposals for such grants are pending before the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity from several communities.
It also repudiates sharply a statement made in August by 36 prominent Catholic leaders, including clergy, teachers, doctors and lawyers, who expressed the view that the Government could conduct family planning programmes "so long as life and personal rights are safeguarded and no coercion or pressure is exerted against i n d iv idual moral choice".
The Senator's Bill has been strongly endorsed by major Protestant and Jewish organisations in the United States.
The Catholics who urged in a signed manifesto the use of public funds to support research in birth control and an implementing programmes for family planning, included six priests three of them Jesuits a nun and 28 laymen.
Akin to abortion
A condition was that there should he no coeroive methods, direct or indirect, or any public promotion of the complicated intra-uterine device. Upon the limited information available. said one of the signatories recently, this was akin to abortion.
One of the main points in the manifesto was that the Government should give information and assistance about medically accepted forms of family planning only so long as human life and personal rights are safeguarded.
Another condition was that ito coercion or pressure should be exerted against individual moral choice, and that the U.S. Government should not imply a preference for any particular method.
Fr. Dexter Hanley, S.J., of Georgetown University, Washington. one of the signatories, emphasised that those who had signed the manifesto were speaking as individuals. not for the Catholic Church or its re'ig:ous leaders.
Cardinal's view ,
Only a few weeks ago, Cardinal Cushing of Boston suggested that the Vatican set up a secretariat for promoting world justice and development.
Purpose of the secretariat would be to mobilise the full influence of the Church. at all levels, in a long-term campaign against world poverty and human suffering, said the Cardinal.